Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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Mayapur Academy Opens Regional Deity Worship School in Villa Vrindavana
By Madhava Smullen   |  Feb 02, 2017

For the past ten years, the Mayapur Academy – run by the ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry – has offered devotees a four-month intensive training course that equips them with all the knowledge, skills and values they need to serve as pujaris in ISKCON.

Many successful graduates have come away from the course with diplomas in archana. But it’s not always easy for devotees to travel so far and be away from their services or homes for four months.

To address this challenge, the Mayapur Academy is establishing its first regional campus, in Europe. Partnering with ISKCON Villa Vrindavana in Italy, it will be offering a month shorter 12-week training program at Villa Vrindavana.

One of ISKCON Europe’s most beautiful temples, Villa Vrindavana is located near Florence, the gorgeous capital of Italy’s Tuscanny region and birthplace of the Renaissance. It’s also, of course, a lot closer to many devotees in the Western World than Mayapur.

Sri Sri Radha Vrajasundara at Villa Vrindavana

The first Deity worship course will run from April 11th, 2017 to a yet-to-be-confirmed date in July 2017.

 Principal teachers will be Manohara Das Pandit, a faculty member and teacher at Mayapur Academy who has served as head pujari at Prabhupada-desh, Italy; and Visakha Dasi, who is also on the Mayapur Academy faculty and has also served as a pujari and cook at Prabhupada-desh.

Units will cover practically everything one needs to know about Deity worship. Students will learn brahminical culture and ethics, including the role of the brahmana in society and how to properly approach the Lord. They’ll get an introduction to the knowledge, skills and values of Deity worship, and learn the basics of daily temple worship. And they’ll be taught how to cook different preparations, working up to being able to cook a complete Raj Bhoga offering.

All the essentials of serving Their Lordships will be taught

Meanwhile they’ll also learn the various mantras used in Deity worship; how to make Deity jewelry; how to appreciate the identity of Tulasi Devi and develop the specific knowledge and skills to care for her; how to arrange the major festivals on the ISKCON calendar; and how to perform an abhisekha (bathing ceremony).

Finally, they’ll live ‘pujari life’ for two weeks, with brahmanas getting the chance to practically apply their learned knowledge in worshipping Villa Vrindavana’s presiding Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Vrajasundara. 

Interestingly, back in 2005, ISKCON Villa Vrindavana was struggling to maintain its enormous property, and to properly care for its Deities.

Students will learn how to perform abhisekha (here performed by pujaris at Villa Vrindavana)

But local devotees worked hard and managed to completely turn the situation around. Today, the Deity worship at Villa Vrindavana is considered so first class that the ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry has picked it as its first regional campus.

“It’s an historic moment that proves how love, devotion, perseverence and desire can transform difficult situations into positive dynamics and development,” says temple president Parabhakti Das.

The first Villa Vrindavana Academy course is open to a maximum of eight devotees in good standing with first and second initiation, as well as to gurukulis. Temple president recomendation is required, and for the duration of the course, devotees will be required to attend the full morning program, follow the four regulative principles, and chant sixteen rounds daily. All applications will be carefully considered before the chosen applicants are notified.

Villa Vrindavana

“This will be the first time that devotees will be able to receive comparable training outside of Mayapur,” says ISKCON Deity Worship Minister Nrsimha Kavacha Das, “And we encourage all interested devotees to participate.”

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